Contribution of Co-ops to Platform for Action: Mechanisms

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  This document has been made available in electronic format by
         the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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              FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN : 
         ACTION FOR EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE 
            BEIJING, CHINA, 4 - 15 SEPTEMBER 1995

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        THE CONTRIBUTION OF CO-OPERATIVE BUSINESS ENTERPRISE
            AND THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT
           TO ACHIEVEMENT OF THE STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES OF
                  THE DRAFT PLATFORM OF ACTION *
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                      New York, March 1995


PREPARED JOINTLY, PURSUANT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 49/155,
       BY THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE ALLIANCE AND 
    THE UNITED NATIONS DEPARTMENT FOR POLICY COORDINATION 
                AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

     * For information purposes only. Not an official document 
       of the United Nations and not officially edited.


I.   CONTRIBUTIONS OF CO-OPERATIVES TO THE STRATEGIC 
       OBJECTIVES OF THE DRAFT PLATFORM OF ACTION
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H.   INSUFFICIENT MECHANISMS AT ALL LEVELS TO PROMOTE THE
               ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN
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The international co-operative movement has always stressed the
importance of gender-equality. Non-discriminiation on the basis
of gender is incorporated in its basic principles. Within the
last decade efforts have intensified: the principal global
representative organizations, regional organizations and most
national co-operative organizations now have strategies whose
goal is to increase women's membership in co-operatives, to
ensure that the activities ofco-operatives are beneficial to
women and supportive of their advancement to full equality with
men, and to bring about equality in women's participation within
co-operatives and co-operative movements. This includes attempts
to increase women's full and effective participation in all areas
of decision-making, including equal representation in management
and in the voluntary member-elected boards of directors and
supervisors which constitute essential elements of the democratic
structures by which every co-operative business enterprise is
controlled.

The co-operative movement's representtive organizations
acknowledge that, in spite of some improvement over recent years,
and considerable evidence that, in each socio-cultural
environment co-operatives provide a better chance for women's
advancement than most other types of association and enterprise,
nevertheless women do not yet participate equally in the affairs
of the co-operatives of which they are members. However, very
active programmes are now in operation throughout the
international co-operative movement to rectify this situation.
These include training programmes for women, and also for men,
undertaken by many movements to sensitize them to the need for
gender-oriented measures designed to bring about effective
equality within the shortest period of time.

In this respect efforts are being made at international, regional
and national levels. For example, the Annual General Meeting, of
the Board of Directors of the World Council of Credit Unions,
held in July 1994, received recommendations prepared by a
Symposium on Women and Credit Unions, which called for increased
education programmes targeted at credit union officials, staff
and members and designed to increase attention to gender issues
and more active recruitment of women for leadership roles and
board positions. The Women's Committee of the International
Co-operative Alliance, and the Women's Programme of the
Co-operative Network for East and Central Europe (a 32
organization programme of technical assistance within the co-
operative movement), were collaborating in the provision of
management training for women in co-operatives in this region.

International actions have been complemented by those taken at
natinal level. For example, in Denmark the agricultural co-
operative movement has analyzed the reasons for women's low
participation and representation at decision-makeing levels, and
has taken actin to remove practices which hinder women's
participation - for example, voting systems now allow two votes
per household member, rather than a single vote which was usually
exercised by the male head of household. A programme entitled
"Women Can" is being carried out in order to encourage qualified
women to enter management positions in the co-operative movement.
In Norway the National Association of Norwegian Dairies is
carrying out a project entitled "Women in Management 1991-1995",
based upon gender sensitivizationfor staff and officials and
training in management and assertiveness, and review of bye-laws
in order to remove obstacles to women's effective participation
in decision-making.

All types of statistics of co-operative business activity,
membership and impact upon communities and societies are
acknowledged to be inadequate. Currently, much attention is being
given to improve the situation. Included in these efforts is
attention to collection, analysis and use of statistics on
women's participation.

In many countries, and at the regional and global international
levels, partnerships are being developed between co-operative
movements and Governments. Consultative and advisory institutions
at general, sectoral and regional levels are facilitating the
development of effective collaboration between women's co-
operative organizations, general women's movements and relevant
governmental departments within national " machineries" for
women's advancement.